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Aves - Neognathae - †Gastornithiformes - †Gastornithidae - †Diatryma - †Diatryma gigantea

Left Tarsometatarsus (Left Fused Element Consisting of Ankle and Middle Foot Bones) of a †Diatryma gigantea (†Gaston's Bird)


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Species Description
Gastornis (“Gaston’s Bird”), previously known as Diatryma, was a large middle Eocene (55-36 mya) terrestrial bird, found in what is now southwest United States (with relatives found in modern-day western Europe); it was believed to have lived in moist tropical/semi-tropical forests. Gastornis stood between 5.7-6.6 ft tall and had long, powerful legs, large taloned feet, and a very large beak with a slightly hooked tip. Given its size and fearsome beak, Gastornis was originally thought to have been a predator, but research suggests that its legs may have been too large to allow the bird to run quickly (and thus catch prey). Other possibilities are that Gastornis was a scavenger, omnivore, or herbivore, though the large beak seems excessive for a solely plant-based diet (although the beak would be useful for breaking very large and/or hard nuts and seeds). The taxonomy for Gastornis is still up for debate; it has been variously aligned with ratites and waders, but is generally considered now to be part of Galloanseres (waterfowl and gamefowl). The reason for the decline of Gastornis is not known, but it does correspond with the rise of larger mammalian predators; if Gastornis was a hunter, it might have been out-competed by these new predators, as mammals were likely to engage in more efficient pack hunting and able to grow larger than birds.
Skeletal Elements Available

Left Tarsometatarsus (Left Fused Element Consisting of Ankle and Middle Foot Bones)
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